Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The police's "emissions-free fleet" strategy

Last year, just as the government was announcing plans for a carbon-neutral public service, the police announced they were buying new petrol-powered patrol cars. But they weren't ignoring the government's requirements, with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster quoted as saying "we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and have outlined a 10-year plan to an emissions-free fleet."

He was lying.

I was curious about the plan, so I tried to request it under the OIA. In what has become a typical experience of requests from police, my request was extended "for consultations" ("between internal workgroups" to boot), then whizzed past its extended deadline, before being ultimately refused under s18(d) as it would "soon be publicly available". Naturally I complained to the Ombudsman, who has begun an investigation. And as part of this, today I received an attempt at an explanation from police. That "10-year plan to an emissions-free fleet" they big-noted about to the media in an effort to make it look like they were working with government policy rather than against it? It turns out it is only being developed. Worse, its not even very well-developed, and that development has been paused. Can I have the work that's been done so far? Of course not:

We are therefore unable to release a strategy that is under development, which could impact both the public's trust and confidence in Police and set unrealistic expectations with the public.
None of this is actually a lawful reason to withhold anything under the OIA, and I've made it clear that I expect the draft work to be released. But the police's willingness to simply make up the law to suit themselves in this area does not inspire confidence about the lawfulness of their behaviour in e.g. criminal matters.

Meanwhile, the lesson to journalists is clear: when the police refer to any report or strategy in public, ask for it. Because at least some of the time, they're lying, presenting unfinished work as complete to make themselves look good. Which is dishonest and unbefitting any New Zealand public agency.